Saturday, August 9, 2014

Wallace Canyon Loop - 8/9/14

South Sister from the Wallace Canyon Saddle

Colt Hanging Out with Mother Nearby

 It was another marvelously cool morning up in the Spring Mountains NRA. Seven hikers started out at the Upper Bristlecone trailhead at the end of the Lee Canyon Road. We hiked the mile up to the No Name Trail junction passing a wild mare and colt and turned left. A quarter of a mile up on the No Name, we took another left fork onto the Wallace Saddle Trail. Here's where the climb began. The trail led steeply up onto a limestone covered bench then on up the hill.

Climbing the Wallace Saddle Trail
 Finally, after a quarter mile of climbing, we curved around to the right and approached a spacious saddle above Wallace Canyon.

Climbing to Wallace Saddle

 We took a small rest on the saddle then dove over the other side on a small trail in the rock. The trail quickly forked and we took the less clear fork to the left. The small trail took us around the end of the canyon and into the woods. After crossing a wooded wash, we came to the site of the 1978 plane crash in which one person died. For many years, the red and white airplane lay in this spot in almost one piece. It had crash landed in ten feet of snow and somehow managed to make its way between the trees and come to rest with trees completely surrounding it. Last year (2013), the wilderness agency decided that the plane needed to be cleaned out of the forest so several volunteers hiked in on several trips and cut the plane into manageable pieces. There was some controversy about its removal but, alas, it is now gone.

Site of the 1978 Plane Crash
 A cairn and a small pile of leftover tidbits now represent the site in a sort of memorial fashion. It is still a somber place.

The Traverse Trail to No Name Saddle

 We returned to the Wallace Saddle and headed toward the South Sister side of the saddle. There is a game trail that goes around the contour of the peak here. The traverse gains a little in elevation then becomes more and more difficult. The trail dissipates about two thirds the way around and the steep hillside becomes difficult to hang onto. Nevertheless, we persevered and eventually arrived at the No Name saddle.

Arriving at No Name Saddle
 We had a lot of fun on the traverse. Quite a challenge!

Six Hikers in a Tree

 From the saddle, we climbed up to the ridge that runs parallel to the No Name Trail. Our first stop was at the huge old bristlecone tree. We climbed up the tree and posed for a shot in front of Mt. Charleston in the background. In the opposite direction, we could see South Sister. South Sister was a mainstay throughout the morning. After the photo session, we finished climbing up the ridge and followed the small trail through the old forest. The views on both sides of the ridge were beautiful. For a while we were close to the No Name Trail, however, we started climbing to the high point and the trail was left behind.

Hiking the Ridge Trail above the No Name Trail
 After the high point, we reached a large shelter built among the trees on the ridge just before we started back down to the Bonanza Trail. We took our break here.

Large Shelter at High Point of Ridge Trail

 During the break, we discussed the parasite that lives on bristlecone trees. It creates a bouquet of bristlecone needles protruding from the trunk. Interesting. Next, we descended the ridge down to the Bonanza / No Name junction. We descended the Bonanza switchbacks talking about movies then junctioned with the Bristlecone Trail. We turned to the right and hiked almost a mile on the familiar trail. Then, at the one higher switchback, we continued hiking straight which put us onto a wild horse trail leading down the ridge.

Upper Bristlecone Trail View
 The wild horse trail is essentially a short cut from the higher Bristlecone switchback down to the lower Bristlecone switchback.

Starting Down the Wild Horse Trail from the Bristlecone Switchback

 This trail leads down a nice limestone and bristlecone ridge until you reach a deep saddle. Here, the trail drops down and around to your right. Then, well, it is a very steep drop down in the pine needles to the Bristlecone Trail. This hike is a great loop hike that connects various trails that are often ignored for the more familiar routes. At the end of the hike, we met up with another of our club hikes that was also just finishing. It was nice to see Ellie B. back!

6 miles; 1900 feet of elevation gain; 4 hours

Starting the Descent off of the Wild Horse Trail

Ellie's Back!

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